West Xtra: Beaver County Christian handles adversity with flying colors

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Beaver County Christian boys volleyball coach Christen Adels has a typical situation for a coach at a small parochial school.

She has multiple pairs of siblings on the team, three brothers, and nearly all of her players are multi-sport athletes.

"I have soccer players who play volleyball or basketball players who play volleyball," Adels said.

She does have one year-round volleyball player, senior Will Townsend. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they have not always had Townsend. As a sophomore, an anterior cruciate ligament injury cost him a season. The next year a concussion caused him to miss the entire season and school year.

The impact he has on the team is obvious. In 2010 when he did play, the team reached the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals. In 2011 when he had the torn ACL, they missed the playoffs and in 2012 when he sustained a concussion they also missed the playoffs.

He repeated his junior year and played on the volleyball team last year and the Eagles took second place in Section 1-AA and reached the WPIAL semifinals.

This season, his fifth and final year of high school (he was granted an extra year for the school year he missed due to the concussion), Townsend suffered another concussion on March 22 in the team's first tournament of the season at Norwin.

Beaver County Christian went through the regular season not knowing when or if Townsend was coming back.

Without their leader, the other four seniors on the team, setter Gibson McCracken, middle hitter Jon Knab and outside hitters Ethan Stahl and Abel Carleton, stepped up as did two freshmen, Dan Townsend and Matt Knab and sophomore middle hitter Quinn McCracken. Dan Townsend, Matt Knab and Quinn McCracken are all younger siblings of their older brothers on the team.

"It was nice to see them step up and say 'Hey, we have to do this without him. We don't know if he is going to be back,'" Adels said. "We had a team talk saying that he may not be back and we had to get used to playing with this team. They really stepped up to the plate."

Without the older Townsend, the Eagles opened the year by placing second among 14 teams in the Norwin tournament. It placed second in the 10-team North Hills tournament, fifth in the 13-team Fox Chapel tournament and it won the 14-team Seneca Valley tournament title.

Within the section the Eagles posted 3-0 wins against Obama Academy once and Hopewell twice.

Beaver County Christian is ranked No. 3 in WPIAL Class AA behind only Ambridge Area and Derry Area. Ambridge (6-0) leads Section 1-AA ahead of Beaver County Christian (3-2) and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (4-3). The Eagles and Chargers will meet tonight at OLSH in a match likely to decide second place in the section. OLSH is ranked No. 4 in WPIAL Class AA.

"By far we have the strongest section [in Class AA] and it is always like this year in, year out," Adels said.

Beaver County Christian closes out its section schedule with a major challenge at home against Ambridge on Tuesday. Four days later it will participate in the OLSH tournament on May 10. The tournament generally draws a majority of the WPIAL postseason-bound teams.

As far as having so many multi-sport athletes who play volleyball only in the spring and the occasional summer pickup game, Adels does not mind at all.

"I prefer to have kids who are multi-sport," Adels said. "I think it is good for them to kick back and play other sports. We are a small school, we need everyone to play all sports. Our boys soccer team went to the WPIAL finals in soccer. It is not like we are suffering."

The clear-cut favorites in the WPIAL postseason are top-ranked Ambridge and No. 2 Derry. Adels anticipates the winner of the Beaver County Christian/OLSH game to get the No. 3 seed with the loser getting the No. 4 seed and Montour getting the fifth seed.

"I think if you ask anybody, they are going to say Ambridge and Derry in the finals," Adels said. "Whoever winds up playing Ambridge and Derry in the semifinals will be the underdog. We are hoping if it is us, with another couple weeks of play, we can pull it all together."

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